After EPA “endangerment finding” USA starting to take CO2 emissions from aviation seriously

The Obama administration has now released a scientific finding from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that greenhouse gases from aircraft pose a risk to human health. This is called an “endangerment finding” and it paves the way for regulating CO2 emissions from the US aviation industry.  It would allow the US to implement a global CO2 emissions standard for new aircraft, that is being developed by ICAO.  However, the ICAO CO2 standard will only start in late 2016 and only apply to new plane designs certified from 2020, leaving most of the world’s existing fleets unaffected for years to come.  But James Lees, from AEF, writing in a blog, says this EPA move could mark a turning point in efforts to regulate CO2 emissions from aviation globally.  While most sectors are expected to cut their emissions, the CO2 from aviation is expected to triple by 2050. Today’s airline fleet is more carbon efficient than it was in the early 1970s but efficiency improvements slowed down dramatically since 2000 – while passenger demand grows at 5.5% per year. It is hoped the UK, the EU and the US can now push for an effective global standard.


America Is Finally Taking Emissions From Flying Seriously – So Let’s Not Drop the Ball

11.6.2015 (Huffington Post)
By James Lees, from AEF


Past attempts to find a global way of dealing with aviation’s carbon emissions have fallen short, most recently with European countries like the UK trying to impose a carbon regulation but lacking international support, particularly from across the pond.

So today’s announcement by the American Environmental Protection Agency that carbon dioxide emissions from aircraft are a danger to the health of the public could mark a turning point.

It is not surprising (the agency had already ruled that greenhouse gas emissions present a risk to US citizens) but given the aviation sector is increasingly culpable when it comes to climate change, the consequences of the ruling could be monumental.

Aviation accounts for around 2.5% of global CO2 emissions, roughly equivalent to Germany’s total output (which is the country with the seventh highest emissions in the World) . While most sectors are expected to cut their emissions, aviation is expected to grow its carbon footprint, with it potentially tripling by 2050.

The challenge for aviation, being an international activity by nature, is finding leadership to tackle its emissions. The European Union tried by including aviation in the European emissions scheme but strong political and industry pressure led to the scheme’s coverage being cut by two thirds.

Now the US environment agency’s finding paves the way for a different approach, most likely initially a performance standard for aircraft CO2 emissions.

One of aviation’s unique privileges is that it is the only transport sector without a standard for CO2 emissions anywhere in the world and yet it urgently needs some kind of measure to push future efficiency improvements. Today’s airline fleet is undoubtedly much more efficient than it was back in the early 1970s but efficiency improvements have slowed down dramatically since 2000 at a time when the global number of airline passengers is growing at around 5.5% per year.

The UN aviation body (ICAO) is already working on a CO2 emissions standard, which could make things easy for the US (it is likely just to include a global standard in its national legislation) and keep the industry satisfied. However, the standard being developed globally may not be fit for purpose – there’s a risk that it will not drive the improvements needed and ultimately have little to no impact on CO2 emissions. It could also only apply to new types of aircraft (rather than the types that have only just hit service such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner), meaning it may only cover a small fraction of the fleet in 2030, hardly an example of the ambitious climate policies required to globally meet the 2°C target.

Here is where the UK could help. With the EU and, this time, the support of the US, we could push for an effective global standard.

It would make cutting emissions in our own countries easier, help reduce our dependence on imported fossil fuels, and could be a useful step towards a globally coordinated approach to bringing aviation in line with wider climate commitments. Tackling aviation emissions will require a whole range of measures beyond efficiency measures including offsetting future emissions and a very cautious approach to new airport capacity.

The UK is currently considering a new runway at Heathrow or Gatwick. But any hope that this could be compatible with our climate goals depends on speculative assumptions about future action to tackle the sector’s CO2 emissions. An effective aircraft standard could be one part of the solution.

The global aviation sector needs to start playing catch up with other transport modes on measures to tackle emissions and the UK and EU are well placed to maintain their leadership on the issue, especially now the US is on board.


EPA Takes First Step To Regulate Aircraft Greenhouse Gas Emissions

(Updates with quote from EPA finding)

By Valerie Volcovici
WASHINGTON, June 10 (Reuters)

The Obama administration on Wednesday released a scientific finding that greenhouse gases from aircraft pose a risk to human health, paving the way for regulating emissions from the U.S. aviation industry.

The “endangerment finding” by the Environmental Protection Agency would allow the administration to implement a global carbon dioxide emissions standard being developed by the United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization.

In its 194-page finding, the EPA said it took “a preliminary but necessary first step to begin to address greenhouse gas emissions from the aviation sector, the highest-emitting category of transportation sources that the EPA has not yet addressed.”

The ICAO is due to release its CO2 standard in February 2016, with the aim of adopting it later that year.

But the requirement is expected to apply only to new aircraft designs certified from 2020, leaving most of the world’s existing fleets unaffected for years to come.

Aviation accounted for 11 percent of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions from the transportation sector in 2013, and nearly 30 percent of global aircraft emissions in 2010, the latest year with complete global emissions data.

The EPA’s ruling will mark the first step toward regulating aviation’s greenhouse gas emissions, and aviation will become the latest industrial sector to be regulated under the Clean Air Act after cars, trucks and large stationary sources like power plants.

But it came only after a federal court ruled in 2012 in favor of environmental groups that had sued the EPA, saying it was obligated to regulate aircraft emissions under the law.

The airline industry favors a global standard over individual national standards since carriers operate all over the world and want to avoid a patchwork of rules and measures, such as taxes, charges and emissions trading programs.

“If you’re a big airline and you’re flying to 100 countries a day, then complying with all those different regimes is an administrative nightmare,” said Paul Steele, senior vice president at the International Air Transport Association, the industry’s main global organization.

But some environmental groups are concerned that the standard being discussed at ICAO will do little to change the status quo right now.

“The stringency being discussed at ICAO is such that existing aircraft are already meeting the standard they are weighing,” said Sarah Burt, a lawyer at Earthjustice, one of several groups that sued the EPA.

Planes generally stay in service for 20 or 30 years, she added.

International Council on Clean Transportation Program Director Dan Rutherford said that to ensure real emissions reductions from airlines, ICAO should apply a carbon dioxide standard to all new aircraft delivered after 2020.

But ICAO is weighing a standard that would apply only to new designs certified after the expected application date of Jan. 1, 2020.

Such an approach would mean the standard would only cover about 5 percent of the global aircraft fleet in 2030, he said. (Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; additional reporting by Victoria Bryan in Miami; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Christian Plumb)






US move to curb airplane emissions ‘may amount to greenwashing’

Environmental Protection Agency expected to extend regulation of carbon emissions to airplanes, but green groups criticise anticipated lack of ambition

The US EPA is expected to formally declare its intent to begin regulating greenhouse gas emissions from airplane pollution.

By Suzanne Goldenberg (Guardian)


Environmental groups have warned that the first step by the Obama administration to curb rapidly rising carbon pollution from airplanes, expected as early as Friday, may amount to little more than greenwashing. The announcement from the Environmental Protection Agency is eight years in the making and comes in response to lawsuits from environmental groups, and a failed effort by the European Union to tackle greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft, one of the fastest growing sources of carbon emissions.

With Friday’s expected announcement, the EPA will extend regulation of carbon pollution from power plants, cars and trucks, to air planes. The move puts the EPA on pace with the International Civil Aviation Organisation in setting global rules for carbon pollution.

But those rules, due to be adopted in February 2016, are unlikely to deliver any significant reductions in carbon pollution, environmental groups said. “It’s not a particularly ambitious action,” said Sarah Burt, a lawyer for Earthjustice which first sued the EPA in 2007 on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, and the Natural Resources Defense Council and other groups. “You will get a standard that is not at all ambitious at best and at worst is essentially greenwashing.”

The EPA and the White House would not comment on the announcement in advance. The first step of the EPA process begins unfolding on Friday when the agency will formally declare its intent to begin regulating greenhouse gas emissions from airplane pollution. The airline industry had fought for years to delay just such a measure – and in 2012 forced the EU to back down on its plans of cutting greenhouse gas emissions on international flights.

Obama at the time had sided with the airline industry in its refusal to fall into line with the EU plan. The new ICAO targets in some ways represent a victory for that stonewalling – buying the airlines time and weakening the rules. The international air authority had struggled for 20 years to deal with climate change. “The EPA has dragged its heels and delayed with its eyes on the international negotiations,” Burt said. “The EPA does not want to go out ahead of the international community.”

The international rules are expected to be exceedingly weak, with virtually all of the airplanes flying today making the grade, which means ICAO is unlikely to deliver any real reductions on greenhouse gas emissions. “It is a CO2 standard but everyone already meets the standard so it results not only in no decrease, but also in a net increase when you see how emissions stand,” Burt said.

Carbon pollution from airplanes is expected to double by 2020. US airline carriers on their own account for about a quarter of global aviation emissions. A number of developing countries, such as India, are expected to see big increases in air travel over the coming decades.


U.S. may take first step to curb airline emissions this week



The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans as soon as Friday to determine whether carbon dioxide from aircraft endangers public health, a first step to regulating emissions from the aviation sector, sources familiar with the rulemaking process said.

The EPA has yet to issue its “endangerment finding,” despite pressure from environmental groups who first sued the agency to start the rulemaking process in 2010. A federal court in 2011 said the EPA must address aircraft emissions under the U.S. Clean Air Act.

The EPA had initially promised the finding would be ready in 2014.

Most observers expect the EPA to say that aviation emissions endanger public health but are not sure how much the agency and the Federal Aviation Authority will reveal about their vision for a carbon dioxide emissions standard for new aircraft.

“We have efficiency standards for cars, trucks, but we don’t have one for airplanes,” said Annie Petsonk, international counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund. “We think this is an industry that has great potential in technical terms, and there is nothing like having an ambitious standard to drive innovation.”

A domestic rulemaking process would lay the groundwork for the United States to adopt a global carbon dioxide standard currently being developed through the United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization.

ICAO is also working on an international “market-based mechanism” to push airlines to slash their emissions, with a goal of final approval in 2016.

U.S. airlines, which favor a global industry standard, said they were encouraged that the EPA and FAA are cooperating with ICAO as the UN body works to develop it.

“As aviation is a global industry … it is critical that aircraft emissions standards continue to be agreed at the international level,” said Vaughn Jennings, managing director for government and regulatory communications for U.S. airline lobby group Airlines for America.

Environmental groups hope the EPA’s announcement will be more ambitious.

“We hope the EPA can push the envelope beyond what ICAO is looking at,” said Ben Longstreth of the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of five green groups that sued the EPA to speed up its rulemaking.

Andrew Murphy, a policy officer at Brussels-based NGO Transportation and Environment, said European regulators might also step up pressure on ICAO to deliver a strong standard.

“The European Aviation Safety Agency has raised the prospect of setting European standards if global ones prove insufficient,” he said.

Global aviation emissions are on pace to triple by 2050 if they continue unregulated, according to the International Council on Clean Transportation.